What it Takes To Be a Writer: Part Two
When last heard from on Sunday, I was extolling the virtues of meditation and other such mental activities. Which might lead one to believe that one can sit in one’s chair and let one’s mind do all the work. Ha! Only if you have monkeys to do it for you. Too bad we can’t get them out of our brain and put them to work, right? But I digress. Here’s the deal: YOU HAVE TO SIT YOUR BUTT IN THE CHAIR AND WRITE. You just do. And worse, you have to do it over and over and over again, day after day after day to finish something. You can’t just think about it. You can’t just ponder great, delicate thoughts about it. You have to do it. And I can’t help you with this. (Hell, I can barely help me with this.) You just have to freaking do it.
And this is hard. It is hard for a couple reasons. Yes, because it takes time, and we have to find it, but really, that’s just an excuse. (A good one, and I rely on it often.) Because you can find time to write if you really want to do it. You can get up early, stay up late, sacrifice your lunch hour, give up Happy Hour with your husband, forgo watching TV. You can, if you want to. You (and I) just don’t. Because:
Energy and Bandwidth
What I think is a much bigger issue is twofold: having the energy and the bandwidth to do it. We are all busy people, most of us way too busy. (And we wrap that busyness around us like a shield at times, too. I know I do it.) And busyness is exhausting. Which leaves us with little energy for writing. It also leaves us with over-full brains. Sometimes I want to write, but I just can’t connect with my WIP. Can’t find a way in. Can’t remember where I was, why I wanted to write the book in the first place. I simply don’t have enough mental bandwidth. I’m exhausted, and so is my brain.
- Recognize that you’re exhausted and get some freaking rest. Sometimes you just have to say enough already and take a break. (For a helpful push in this direction, read Wayne Muller’s How to Be, Have, and Do Enough.) I have a hard time doing this because its inbred in me to feel guilty when I take a break. And then, funnily enough, when I do take a break, all I want to do forever is laze about. Which may be why I resist relaxing in the first place, because I’m afraid I’ll never stop. (And now that I think about it, this is a clear sign of letting the busyness get to me.)
- Cleanse your brain. Besides meditation, which I’ve already recommended, the best way to do this is to watch what you eat. And, as far as I can tell, the only advice that everyone seems to agree on when it comes to nutrition is to eat lots of fruits and veggies. Beyond that, I believe that you need to figure out what works best for you. Some people do need to be gluten-free. Others can happily eat pasta and bread without a problem. And yet others, like me, need to be mindful of having enough protein at every meal to prevent energy crashes. Only you can figure this out. But remember that old adage from the sixties–you are what you eat–really is true. And it affects our writing as well. (There’s also the issue of you are what you drink, but I’m not going there at the moment.)
- Take imperfect action. When I get anxious and stressed is when I magnify things in my mind. I don’t just have to write a blog post, it has to be the best blog post ever. I don’t just have to write a scene in my novel, it has to be compelling and thrilling. Pretty sure this is the brain’s way of signaling overload. But if you allow yourself to be imperfect and just do something, anything, you’ll feel good about it and then you can start to build some momentum.
- Say no. Or cop to the activities you’re saying yes to. What is more important to you–being volunteer of the year or writing your novel? I’m not asking facetiously, it is a serious question. Maybe it is most important for you to spend hours you could be writing at your volunteer post. No judgement. But if it so, then admit it and quit stressing about not having time to write. Just clearing the stress will open up mental bandwidth. Also, it is a good thing to say no. Period.
So you’ve got yourself all cleared and psyched up. Ready to go. Your butt is in the chair. There you sit, ready to write. What next? That’s the topic of my next post. (I really didn’t think there were going to be three posts in this series, but this one is already pushing 800 words so it seems like a good idea.)
And, because we were talking about monkeys, and because I love ya, here’s a compendium of trunk monkey videos
What are you monkeys up to these days?